How Etihad is Disrupting the Business Class Market With its Dreamliner Service.


Etihad Business Class on the 787 Dreamliner

Recently I needed to go to the Middle East and India for work.  Luckily there was an amazing business class fare with Etihad, so I just had to jump on it. I’d never flown Etihad before but had heard pretty good reviews from those who had flown them.

People had mentioned to us the fantastic service, the great food, and the incredible business class cabins on the Dreamliner.  So here is Expert Traveller’s take on the Etihad business class experience and why they are disrupting the industry!

Checking In at Brisbane International Airport

I arrived at Brisbane International Airport at 8:30pm, for my 10:35pm departure to Abu Dhabi. The airport was quiet so I easily found the check in area for Etihad, located at the far lefthand end of the terminal.

Etihad provides a dedicated business class check-in lane and I was quickly served, had my bag checked through, and my boarding pass in hand.  Impressive so far!

Security Screening

Heading downstairs to the departure area and security screening, things started to slow down. Although there was a premium lane, it seemed everyone was being funnelled into the same area.  As a result things were moving very slowly.  Families with small children were being given priority in this line as well. I have no problem with this, but after three families in a row, the last with four children, I was starting to think maybe joining another line might be advantageous.

The lovely lady on crowd control must have read my mind as she redirected many of us to an adjacent lane.  From there we were processed quickly. This was an unusual experience, as for the most part Brisbane International Airport moves people through pretty quickly.  You are usually in the lounge in no time.

Etihad Lounge

Etihad doesn’t have their own lounge in Brisbane, and with only one flight a day, why would they! Consequently business class passengers are directed to the Air New Zealand Lounge, which we absolutely loved. For our full review of this awesome lounge read our post – Have you Discovered the Secrets of Air New Zealand’s Lounges? (We Have!)

Flying on the Etihad Dreamliner

My first impression, as I walked onto the Dreamliner, was ‘WOW! What a beautiful cabin!’ Etihad has done a great job on the design of their cabin.  The colour scheme and the amazing level of privacy afforded every passenger is awesome.

The cabin is laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration, with some seats facing forward and others backwards. Also seats alternate from being close to the aisle and away from the aisle. In the middle of the plane the seats for couples are either closer together or further apart.  Making privacy easier for individual travellers who are seated in the middle seats.

The Etihad Business Class Seat

I had selected a window seat, which was forward facing on the right hand side of the plane. The seat area is extremely well designed, with much thought having been put into all aspects of a passenger’s needs and comfort.

The seat is leather and extremely comfortable, both in the sitting position and when reclined. The cabin design provides direct aisle access for every passenger!  The seat makes quite a luxurious flat bed when it’s time to sleep.

A colourful cushion and duvet-style blanket were awaiting me, as were a set of headphones and the in-flight menus. I particularly loved the gold lighting features, giving the cabin a classy look and feel.

Etihad have designed every feature of their business class product to be truly competitive.  As a result they are giving their near neighbour Emirates, a real challenge in the lucrative business travel market.

Etihad Entertainment

The large screen provided in the entertainment system was like being at home! In addition, there is a hand held controller to operate the system from the comfort of your reclined seat.

The Cabin

The unusual design of forward and backward facing seats, and staggered layout, still afforded a high level of privacy to every passenger. As you can see in the photos below, even if you are in the centre section, you can use dividers to give you added privacy from your seat companion, or neighbour across the aisle.

Those two design elements really impressed me!  On many carriers, business class can be a very open and exposed experience.  Sometimes you are barely separated from the passenger next door. Etihad’s cabin design made me feel comfortable, relaxed, and like I was flying in a higher class.

Excellent design Etihad!

The Etihad Welcome

Settling in, I was met by the Etihad cabin crew, and offered a welcome drink and a hot towel. The champagne on this flight was the Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut, which I obviously had to sample!

Food on Board

Shortly after take off the meal service commenced, and on this evening departure dinner was served. I started with the soup, which was served with garlic bread.

Following this I had the steak, served with vegetables. Etihad has an on board chef, who personally makes sure the food served is to the highest standard.  My steak was beautifully cooked and presented!

The whole meal service is done with fine dining in mind. You can eat at any time, in any order.  Can’t get much more of a tailored service than that!

The table setting was classy, with metal trays and bread baskets, and classic-look white crockery. Following the steak I had an excellent cheese platter, which I always believe is a fantastic way to finish off a great meal.

Wine on Board Etihad

To accompany each course of the meal, Etihad offers a quality range of wines. There was good selection, with Italian and New Zealand whites, a very good Australian red, as well as an Italian blend. Soft drinks, juice, water, tea and coffee were also available and offered.

Top Notch Etihad Service

Throughout both my outward bound and my return flights, I was exceptionally impressed with the high level of service provided. It was high quality, personalised and professional. On each flight the food and beverage manager was dressed in a white dinner jacket, looking every bit the Maître D’.

Etihad has done an outstanding job training their cabin crew.  Every request was promptly attended to, from drink refills, to food requests, to assistance with the entertainment system.

This made for a very pleasant flight experience! As we got closer to Abu Dhabi snacks were offered and I enjoyed the steak sandwich I selected… along with the sunrise views.

Coffee Fix

Freshly made cappuccinos always go a long way to satisfying the team at Expert Traveller!  Etihad’s coffee was no exception, hitting the early morning spot beautifully.

The Etihad Arrivals Lounge at Abu Dhabi International Airport

Not many airlines provide arrivals lounges. I can only think of two that I have used – British Airways at Heathrow and Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong . So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Etihad has a very nice, although small, arrivals lounge in Abu Dhabi.

The Etihad arrivals lounge provides a welcome shower; a clothes pressing service; a bite to eat; and a place to catch up on email before being chauffeur driven to your destination. After this flight I was provided a limo transfer to my hotel in Dubai , which is pretty impressive.

Etihad’s Complimentary Chauffeured Car Service

Etihad provides a free chauffeur driven car service from Abu Dhabi Airport for business class passengers. Unfortunately in other locations it is now a paid service, which is a roll back in their service provision. From Abu Dhabi airport Etihad’s car service will take you anywhere in the United Arab Emirates. Great service!

On the return journey I had a 10 hour layover in Abu Dhabi, between the flight from Mumbai and my onward connection to Brisbane. Etihad kindly offered me a hotel room in the centre of the city, which was greatly appreciated. Etihad chauffeured me to and from the airport, providing a seamless, highly valuable addition to my business class experience with them.

Expert Traveller Recommends…

I was very impressed with my first Etihad business class experience. From the stylish cabin design, the seat and its high level of privacy, to the top notch service provided, this was a thoroughly enjoyable 14 hour flight.

The added benefits of the chauffeur drive service and the arrivals lounge, make Etihad’s offering a top quality one for business travellers.  We’re loving their disruption of this market sector!

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